Trump’s reluctance to accept the legitimacy of his potential defeat in the 2016 U.S. presidential election reminds me of Mugabe. It reminds me of what Mugabe did when he said, “The people have spoken,” and that he would accept the will of the people in the 1999 constitutional referendum. In that vote the proposed constitution that he backed was defeated. What he did after that was the opposite of his statement. After that vote the Zimbabwean economy went into freefall; people suffered widespread violence, and massive numbers of citizens fled the country. Mugabe could not accept defeat. He had the kind of power to exact retribution and undo the will of the people. He had the power that Trump wishes that he had.
That first constitutional convention saw the beginning of what some call “the women’s movement” in Zimbabwe. I write about this in my book and about why some other people see a movement toward women’s emancipation dating back to the liberation struggle. For decades there have been women’s groups in Zimbabwe dealing with topics such as access to land, religious beliefs and practices, and women’s rights. During the 1999 constitutional convention women from the ruling and opposition parties came together with women in civic, religious, and other non-governmental organizations to address the woman question. This coalition could not agree on whether or not to vote “yes” to support the government’s proposed constitution or “no” against it. Leaders in the women’s movement advised women to “vote wisely.” After the vote, after the government lost, I heard women say that they were singled out for retribution because they had not come out in favor of the government’s “yes” vote.
It is not true that whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Such blows can be devastating, can be an awful setback. But women in Zimbabwe have continued to organize, to found new groups, to express themselves as mothers and citizens